Thursday, April 28, 2016

Farewell to the Prince of the Daemons

“There are also daemons—creative, artistic creatures who walk a tightrope between madness and genius. “Rock stars and serial killers” was how my aunt described these strange, perplexing beings.”  ~ A Discovery of Witches
 Prince was the quintessential rock star daemon.

Prince died last week.

For the Daemons, it was a gut punch. While the All Souls Trilogy was the catalyst that brought us together, it was the magic of His Royal Badness that paved the way. You see, we’re all women who came of age during the ascendency of Prince. His music and message unleashed the wickedness in these good girls - the unwillingness to accept the mediocre, and the fearlessness of flying our freak flags.  Prince showed us how to throw shade with style while maintaining our compassion – to a degree.  Basically, his funky mélange of R&B, soul and rock worked its magic and made us “sistas from different mistas.”  We decided to push everything else aside and reflect on the daemon called Prince.

The Purple, the Paisley, and the Pupil
by Angela

The news of Prince’s sudden and unexpected passing was like an ice cold wave crashing over my head  - repeatedly.  As I have the good fortune of doing every day, I was chatting with my fellow Daemons when the news broke.  We were in disbelief – utter shock – but we were able to find mild solace in exchanging with each of our most cherished Prince memories -- that we had before we met, as well as those we created together.

Wearing signature paisley
As I drift back in my Prince reveries, I see myself – as one of many - in black speed skates with purple wheels doing synchronized moves with the rest of the funky bunch at the local roller skating rink.  The stand-out groups at the time included the Gap Band, the Dazz Band, and of course, Prince.  The word “jam” (noun and verb) had just entered my vernacular, and I felt a freedom listening to the album “1999”.   Delirious, D.M.S.R and the eponymous title song were “jams”, but they were just the gateway to the one that would hook me forever – Little Red Corvette.  Listening to it was one thing, but actually seeing Prince perform the song was another animal entirely.  I stayed up just late enough to watch the premiere of the video on MTV (because let’s face it, Prince in all his sensuality, potential gestures and with his lyrics laced with double-entendres, as well as explicit sexual charge, the video was not going to premiere at lunch time.)  As the opening synthesizer drifted in and Prince emerged in the spotlight, the anticipation began to crescendo.  Seeing him and hearing him felt risky, oh-so-right and exhilarating.  He was the sound and picture of juxtaposition.  How could he have a throaty growl yet an erotic falsetto?  How could he exude such masculinity wearing eyeliner and lace?  And musically, melodically – fuggedaboutit!

To quote a recent US News article:

“Prince could play guitar like Carlos Santana or Jimi Hendrix, sing like James Brown, turn out pop melodies worthy of Motown or lay down the deepest grooves this side of Sly and the Family Stone. But no one could mistake his sound for anyone but Prince.”  Not his sound, not his look.

It was impossible to label him or to put him in a box.  That was a huge eye-opener when I was at an age unknowingly trying to find myself yet knowingly trying to fit in.  (And try doing it when I went to an all-girls school wearing a perfectly pressed and pleated uniform!)  It is not an exaggeration to say that most of us at school were moved by Prince.  Our new uniform of sorts came trying to emulate his style with paisley shirts under our Forenza sweaters, asymmetrical coifs, ruffled shirts (the “Puffy Shirt” had nothing on us), lace gloves, and purple everything -- when it was possible (e.g., a purple double-piercing here, a Swatch watch there.)  If we wore a subdued version of the aforementioned new uniform (and the nun who patrolled the halls for uniform violations was elsewhere), we’d be lucky to pair some of elements with our plaid uniform skirts.  (Plaid and paisley – why not?  Definitely a fashion faux pas, but the ‘80s were defined by them and more importantly, we were inspired!)

Prince’s genius in and outside of his music speaks volumes and is ever apparent, but to say that his music awakened a desire to question, analyze, critically think and see beyond what's presented at the surface is an understatement.  A time when I was compelled by the ‘powers that be’ to look and think similarly to others, I learned that I could accept my foundation (and make it a strong one - thanks, Mom) but also express myself, push boundaries and let myself soar while I explore a zillion different facets of myself.

Prince left an indelible mark on me -- and scores others, and with his passing, a part of my formative youth also passed, but what I’ve learned during the years of having the privilege of hearing Prince’s music, reading his lyrics, watching him dance and seeing him champion rights of artists and humans, is immeasurable.  It’s with his message of empathy and compassion that I can easily tie his message and way of life to the over-arching themes in the All Souls Trilogy.  He could effortlessly bring together the most challenging cast of characters and have them harmonizing (figuratively if not literally) in no time.

To bring this point home, I recall the last time I saw Prince play live in concert.  It was June 25, 2004.  Before the inevitable Purple Rain encore, he closed with “What’s My Name”-- and an ageless, introspective examination.  It is so fitting that this test of empathy was posed to us and were some of the last words I heard him sing live.

Do U dream in color or do U discriminate?
Do U love others, do U love or do U hate?
Do U worship fire or do U worship a dove?
Do U live a liar or do U live 4 love?
What's your name?
What's my name?
What’s your name?

"What's My Name", Crystal Ball, Disc 2 ~Prince

His name is Prince…forever…here and in the afterlife.  Godspeed, Purple One.

Sexuality and the Suburban Girl
By Jean

C'mon everybody, yeah, this is your life
I'm talking about a revolution we gotta organize
We don't need no segregation, we don't need no race
New age revelation, I think we got a case
I'm ok as long as you are here with me

"Sexuality", Controversy ~Prince

Thanks to Prince I don't live my life worrying about where other people pee or what they're wearing when they do it.

I grew up in the suburbs of Detroit – the kind of suburbs where we put on an all white version of “The Wiz” for our senior musical because we had to– a working/middle class suburb so homogenous that Protestant kids were kind of an oddity. It was freaking Mayberry – if Mayberry’s biggest taxpayers were Chrysler and a steel mill. You get the idea.

How does Prince come into all of this, you ask? Well, Controversy and 1999 were the sound track of our Freshman dorm – literally – thanks to the Indian pre-med student upstairs.  He played Prince’s whole catalog repeatedly and the message sunk in. What we are isn’t as important as who we are. Get past the labels attached to appearance, spirituality, and sexuality and revel in the love, creativity and cool that you find when you strip it all away. We’re more alike than different, but the different is a gift.  In a nutshell, Prince was Gen X’s Dr. King with a wicked, grinding beat. A beat we sought out in the clubs in the inner city. The clubs and the airwaves were very segregated in 80’s Detroit. Prince cut across the frequencies and beat down the doors. Gay club or straight. Top 40, new wave or urban club, Prince set the beat.  Thanks to those lessons, my bestie could come out of the closet without our relationship faltering.  And thanks to the music and the message, I found my tribe on the dance floor, in the clubs, and all the places our newfound fearlessness took us. There was no "other" to fear. The magical mix of naïveté, boldness, and acceptance was  the power of purple at work – and thanks to that open heart, I found my colorful diverse tribe - all colors, creeds and shades of love. Think about it. When you mix pink and blue you get purple. That says a lot.

Speaking of tribes, this little Daemon tribe has been in the practice of chatting late at night and sometimes it gets (more than) a little off the wall. Well one night we came across a casting suggestion – Lenny Kravitz for Matthew. Yeah, he’s hot as Hades, and charismatic to boot, but seriously? After throwing some shade, and having our laugh, it morphed into the “Urban Musical” version of All Souls Trilogy. Think of  it as an AST + Wiz mash-up.  Of course we started casting - it was pretty late! We were blowing off steam!  It was hilariously epic. Lenny as Matthew. Vanity as Diana. Billy Dee Williams and Diana Ross as Philippe and Ysabeau (think Mahogany/Lady Sings the Blues).  And Prince as Kit Marlowe OF COURSE.  Imagine our surprise when it turned out our little exercise in funky magic turned out to be daemon art imitating daemon art. Prince had already put together a funk musical based on Homer’s Odyssey called “Glam Slam Ulysses.” How’s that for Six Degrees of AST?

The Prince and Me
By Valerie

Last Thursday I was in an early light-hearted chat session with my fellow Daemons when the news hit. Prince was gone. All of us being from the same generation – the now practically invisible Gen X; the generation who's soundtrack was heavily peppered with his music – we sat in shock and relayed our dismay to each other. Teary and typing, the day was surreal. We first got the news when TMZ broke the story. We couldn't believe it. TMZ is a tabloid, right? That couldn't be correct! But after about 10 minutes of waiting to properly box this story as a hoax and go on about our days, the major outlets had put our hand-wringing to rest. The NYT, CNN, Huffington Post, and other sources started posting their "in memoriam" headlines declaring Prince dead at 57. We had lost another great. I guess here is where I have to explain the meaning of this to me personally. Then I’ll try to convey (as best I can) how this relates to the subject of All Souls and our journey into this online fandom.  This will be long, but it's my version of catharsis; bear with me.

In my teens, I heard DMSR ("Dance, Music, Sex, Romance") for the first time and was absolutely mesmerized. Now, it wasn’t the hit that Little Red Corvette was, but at that age I wasn't really paying attention to pop radio. DMSR was an obscure long-form dance number – track #8 on the Risky Business soundtrack. My friend was playing it while we were hanging out in her basement one day. What was this magic? It was rich with grit, funk, synth, guitar, beats, bass.  It was an unapologetic dance track, yet far more substantive than any disco I had ever heard.  It was overwhelming, loud, soul-thumping and fantastic! I grabbed her cassette tape to read the inside cover. "Prince" it said. Prince had written, produced, and performed that masterpiece. Well, whoever this Prince guy was, I had to learn more! I began my quest as soon as I got home that day. I ordered all of the Prince albums I could through the Columbia music club. I'm showing my age here, but when you joined you could get 14 full albums for a penny. Yup. I was a member in good standing for years! When my bounty of music arrived – included were the albums: For You, Prince, Controversy, and 1999 (the album where DMSR originated) – I poured over it with awe.  I have a real quirk: I was and remain an obsessive student of all things that fascinate me.  Therefore I listened. I studied. I re-listened. I read the lyrics. Needless to say, I was hooked. I had found it. My sound. My artist. The soundtrack to deal with drudgery of the awkward, strange, confusing teen years. Someone who looked like me - a similar racial background with a voice for the world to hear. I'm here to tell you that growing up a mixed kid in the 70's and 80's wasn't easy, and to find a creature like him was illuminating. I, for the first time in my life, had become a fan.

The very first concert I ever attended was the Purple Rain tour at Madison Square Garden. I had to perform some shady trickery to sneak out of the house to get there. Mainly, because my father didn’t think it appropriate for me to go (in his defense, I had only just turned 15. My mother, to this day doesn't doesn't know! Shh! Don't tell her!) I crept out of my house, ran down the street, jumped in my friend’s brother’s car – luckily he agreed to drive us – and we proceeded to escape our safe suburban lives via the NY Thruway to the George Washington Bridge, landing on the island of Manhattan in record time. It's funny how well New Yorkers, even the suburbanites, traverse the streets so fearlessly. In retrospect, I have no idea how it is we went from Grand Central Station (where he dropped us off), through Bryant Park to safely arrive at Madison Square Garden sans today's convenience of smart phones and GPS. Stupid teens! I admit, as an adult I look back at this and I'm slightly horrified! Anyway, there we were standing in line with our General Admission tickets giddy with the knowledge that we were about to be in the presence of greatness. The show didn't disappoint - it exceeded all expectations. But to describe it here would be writing a 5 chapter novella and I haven't got the space to do it the justice it deserves. But I am happy to report that I somehow managed to sneak back into the house without incident.

The regular version of "Erotic City"
was the B-side to the single "Let's Go Crazy"
Weirdly, in the weeks and months that followed, I proceeded to undergo a fundamental change. Sure, the walls in my bedroom got plastered with everything Prince, and my wardrobe went through a rapid transformation, employing as much purple as possible, and every new album (and single with an otherwise unpublished B-side) was promptly purchased and devoured. My father started realizing something was going on when his normally quiet(ish) daughter - who used to sit and read books and comics for hours - had taken to blasting the long (explicit!) dance version of Erotic City on repeat in her bedroom. The combination of the dirty lyrics, the hypnotic beat, the simplicity, the complexity, and Sheila E was simply delicious! There was a distinct science to that heady mix. This wasn't rebellion, this was experiencing sheer beauty! Erotic City had come alive! Well, my father wasn't exactly celebratory. After a stern talking to, and subsequent confiscation of that record, I decided that as soon as I scraped enough money together, I really needed to purchase some headphones! After pleading my case to her, my mother managed to talk my father down from the tree and I eventually got my record back. As for my part, I was a 'good girl,' and abstained from playing it – until I got those headphones. I think it was my first successful negotiation! I was reasonable, calm and believed what I was saying.  That's when I realized that I probably could've done the same for the concert.  Negotiation was the key!  I never snuck out again. On the surface, to the casual observer, what I just described appears to be a typical teen coming-of-age tale. Not immediately apparent was what had changed for me inside. Those experiences showed me the following: 1. if I wanted to do something, I should go for it with gusto – void of apology. 2. Rules will sometimes need to be broken. 3. You must take fate in your hands. 4. If you don’t take risks, rewards will be few and far between. 5. Ask for what you want. 6. Argue, but with conviction, compassion, and logic. 7. Think outside the box. 8. Be brave.

I was generally a good kid (perhaps a bit headstrong), and my parents had taught me right from wrong, but I also learned that life isn't quite so black and white. Prince was the ultimate rule-breaker, risk-taker, and the master of the gray area. He also was a living demonstration of the "Here I am, Take me or leave me. You can't put me in a box, categorize me, or project your personal standards on me" attitude. It's the attitude I try carrying in adulthood...occasionally I slip, but no one is perfect! I imagine most people have catalysts that spark the same awareness, but the person that delivered that box of wisdom to me was Prince. He was my messenger. He was my catalyst.

Now how it relates to me as a Daemon; in late 2012 we decided to enter the world of online fandom.  First we had to come up with a website and concept and I was at a total loss.  We had no idea what style to pursue or where to even start when it came to opening up Photoshop to come up with the “look and feel” of our internet presence.  Being a web designer in a previous life, I had to think about what I used to do when I needed a concept and mood to run with.  Light-bulb!  Turn on the music! Turn on Prince!  That’s what I’ve ALWAYS done!  From then on the ideas flowed from color, to style, to font, all the way to the tedious coding.  In two weeks the website was live.  This method has worked with the all of the designs that followed…Daemons Domain was born to the music of Prince!

I read somewhere last week in my mad gathering of all things Prince, that we don’t mourn people like artists/musicians because we knew them.  We mourn because they help us learn who we are.  That’s heavily paraphrased, but the gist is the same.  I continue to learn who I am. A sizable part of that journey includes Prince.  Much like the All Souls Trilogy for me, Prince produced dreams, conjured curiosity, creativity and thought.  Art will do that to a soul.

Rest in Peace, Purple One.  I'm forever changed. O(+>

Nevermind your friends, girl it ain't no sin
To strip right down to your underwear
I say everybody (everybody) screw the masses
We only want to have some fun (have some fun)
I say do whatever we want, wear lingerie to a restaurant
Police ain't got no gun, you don't have to run

"DMSR", 1999 ~Prince

Prince was one of the best examples of a modern daemon.  He was oblivious to others opinions of him, and he refused to be categorized - this allowed him to be a songwriter, a singer, a producer, quite a dancer, and an absolutely brilliant musician. He played 27 instruments (self-taught!) He didn't just learn the basics of his craft.  He mastered them.  On his first five albums he was the one who played all of the instruments during the production/recording sessions.  Last but not least, he was one of the greatest guitarists of all time.  That's a bold statement with all of the known greats out there, but if you doubt, here's a video of his solo from the 2004 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame performance honoring Beatle and new inductee, George Harrison.  The set included famous rockers like Tom Petty, Steve Windwood and Jeff Lynne (Prince was also inducted that year).  You can read the breakdown of this performance --->HERE

Or if you still question his drive and artistry, watch this Superbowl XLI halftime clip of him playing Purple Rain.  The man played in the pouring rain like he planned it that way:

A sneak peak at our "Matthew" and "Kit" (see Jean's essay above) working musically together!  This was from the (at the time) the Artist's Rave Un2 tour performing Lenny's "American Woman"

He even wrote songs that other artists made popular.  Which ones?  Check this out—> 15 great Prince Songs that Were Hits for Other Artists.

He was an alchemist - he took music from different genres, Rock, R&B, Funk, Punk, New Wave, Disco and Pop and made something entirely new.  The result was genius, and all him.  Finally, he embodied the themes heavily promoted in All Souls: embracing difference, willingness to evolve, accepting who you are, honing your gifts, and making magic.  With this we honor a great amongst daemons.  His Royal Badness is riding with the sun, moon and stars.

"If you only had one year left to live
What good is the time you spend if you've got no love to give?"

"Love Sign", 1-800-NEW-FUNK ~Prince

Chevrolet's full page ad posted in tribute

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